Mercy Street Church of Christ
Abilene, TX
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Make a a fiery serpent and set it on a pole

Make a a fiery serpent and set it on a pole. (Numbers 21:8)


This is one of the more peculiar stories in the Bible. What point is God trying to make with a snake on a pole?

Perhaps if we were to read this story in light of the gospel, we might find some answers. Paul wrote that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Just as the Israelites’ sin earned them a deadly snakebite, so too do we suffer death as the consequence of our sin. Venom does to the body what sin does to the soul.

The Israelites had to trust in God’s plan for their deliverance, and so do we. In his mercy, God did not leave us in our sin. Rather, he provided a remedy. The wages of sin may be death, according to Paul, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). God healed the Israelites with the bronze serpent on a pole, just as he delivered us through his Son, who was “lifted up” and hung on a tree for our sins (John 8:28; 12:32). If sin is the serpent fatally biting us, then Jesus’ blood is the antidote by which we are delivered from death.

What the Israelites did with the serpent, we are invited to do with the cross: look upon it with faith. That’s where Jesus bore our sins and won victory. There are no hoops to jump through, no need to prove ourselves. Salvation comes from God, not from us. It comes because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, not because of our best intentions or efforts.

Jesus once told Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). So the next time you look at a cross, see the mercy of the Father who sacrificed his Son for you. Take advantage of the time to go further with the Lord and experience the healing power of the cross. Ask Jesus to bear your burdens and wash away your sin and guilt, for his sacrifice and mercy are flowing for everyone.



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